Survival Tips After Hurricane Rita Strikes

September 22, 2005
Release Number: 05276

CPSC Warns Gulf Coast Residents of Deadly Carbon Monoxide from Generators

With Hurricane Rita barreling towards Gulf Coast states, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns residents who may lose power, NEVER to use portable generators inside their homes or attached garages. The exhaust from generators contains high levels of carbon monoxide (CO) which can quickly incapacitate and kill.

"Carbon monoxide is an invisible killer, odorless and colorless. Keep generators a safe distance from your home, away from open doors, windows and vents. Don't take a chance," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton.

Unofficial estimates indicate at least 11 deaths and numerous injuries have been attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning stemming from portable generators used in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The Commission provided these important life-saving tips:

  • Never use a portable generator indoors – including garages, basements, crawlspaces and sheds. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO buildup in the home.
  • During use, keep portable generators outdoors and far away from open doors, windows and vents, which can allow CO to build up indoors.
  • If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air right away. The CO from generators can readily lead to full incapacitation and death.
  • Keep generators dry and wait for the rain to pass before using a generator. Consumer-grade generators are not weatherproof and can pose the risk of electrocution and shock when used in wet conditions.
  • Do not connect the generator directly into your home's electrical system through a receptacle outlet – this is an extremely dangerous practice that poses a fire hazard and an electrocution hazard to utility workers and neighbors served by the same transformer.
  • If using a generator, plug individual appliances into heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cords and plug cords into the generator.
  • Check that the extension cords have a wire gauge adequate for the appliance loads and have all three prongs, including a grounding pin.
  • Keep charcoal grills outside. Never use them indoors. Burning charcoal in an enclosed space can produce lethal levels of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Check to make sure your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms have batteries and are working.

Wet Carpets and Furniture Are Dangerous to your Health

  • Discard water-damaged mattresses, wicker furniture, straw baskets and the like that have been water damaged. These cannot be recovered.
  • Throw out wet room-size carpets, drapes, upholstered furniture, stuffed toys, ceiling tiles and anything that can't be picked up and cleaned by dry cleaning, steam cleaning or put in a washing machine or dryer.
  • Remove and replace wet insulation.
  • Microorganisms may grow in these water-damaged products and may cause allergic reactions and infections. For more information, go to https://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/425.html

 

Avoid Electrical and Gas Hazards

  • Look for signs that your appliances have gotten wet. Discard electrical or gas appliances that have been wet because they pose electric shock and fire hazards.
  • Before using your appliances, have a professional or your gas or electric company evaluate your home and replace all gas control valves, circuit breakers, and fuses that have been under water.

Dangers to Children

  • Medicines and chemicals should be thrown away. Water may have infected the integrity of the medicine. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers additional safety tips. For more information, go to http://www.hhs.gov/news/broadcast/2005/CrawfordMedicationSafety.html
  • Young children and water don't mix. Watch children around buckets, tubs and standing water in and around the home. Even small amounts of water can be a drowning hazard.

Consumers, fire departments and state and local health and safety agencies can download CPSC's generator safety posters (English-pdf) (Spanish-pdf) and door hangers or order hard copies by contacting the Office of Information and Public Affairs.